THE COSMOS POEMS by Frederick Seidel


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This limited-edition collection of verse and pictures was commissioned by the American Museum of Natural History in New

York to inaugurate and celebrate its new planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space. Seidel, the author of several

previous books of poetry, contributes 33 new poems to this effort. They are accompanied by Anselm Kiefer's full-color

lithographs. Seidel has clearly done his homework and knows the lingo peculiar to astrophysics and quantum mechanics: he speaks

of the original 11-dimensional space-time and the massless spin-2 particle, but his insertion of these clunky terms into poetic

stanzas is often awkward. At other times he's given to rhapsodic verse such as "I like the speed of light." (Good thing, too. It's

the law in these parts.) In between is a handful of enjoyable poems, like "Supersymmetry" and "Morning of the Universe,"

that express childish delight and awe at the marvelous workings of the universe, poems that present concrete images of Planet

Earth rather than intergalactic abstractions. In how many ways can a poet be expected to metaphorically describe the Big Bang

in a faux enfant voice without repeating himself? And after seeing a half-dozen pictures of planets superimposed upon pictures

of galaxies, how interesting a departure are the next ten going to be? A better method for commissioning such a work might have

been to elicit poems and pictures from a number of poets and artists.

Unless a gravitational anomaly is likely to cause your coffee-table to float away into space, you aren't likely to need or want

such an expensive tome.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-374-13020-5
Page count: 112pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2000


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